Minor League Ball Gameday, August 17

J.P. Crawford - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning prospect watchers. I hope your Friday evening went well. Let's get down to business.

***Articles pending for the coming days: Prospect Retrospectives on Raul Ibanez, Jeff Kent, and LaTroy Hawkins. Prospect of the Day lineup includes Andrew Lambo, Chad Bettis, Ethan Martin, Christian Bethancourt, Leury Garcia, Vic Black, and anyone important who gets into the news (as Kolten Wong did yesterday). I am also working on a "where are they now" piece for the 2012 draft.

***Yesterday's Minor League Ball Gameday thread.

***Since being promoted to the major leagues by the Pirates this week, Lambo is 1-for-8 with a double, a walk, and two strikeouts. I will have more to say about him the actual Prospect of the Day piece, but someone asked me how i would grade him given his 31-homer season this year. I had him as a Grade C pre-season and that would have to be at least a C+ now. I would not give him a Grade B, so it would be strong C+ or a B-. I'm thinking about it.

***As noted by BlueBirdBanter on Thursday, Brett Lawrie has been on fire lately for the Toronto Blue Jays, pushing his season line up .258/.318/.435 with nine homers, 104 OPS+, wRC+ 104. . .still not a great line, but a lot better than where he was three weeks ago, thanks to a 1.046 OPS in August. The BBB article links his improvement to changes in his hitting setup, which makes a good a sense as anything else.

Say what you will about Lawrie, but he's made adjustments before when necessary. The hitter I saw for Low-A Wisconsin in 2009 wasn't the same guy I saw battering Triple-A pitching in '11; he made changes then, too, closing his stance up a little, and was much better about controlling the strike zone after the Blue Jays emphasized this to him. He's still just 23 years old and I think he's going to have some beast seasons if he can keep himself healthy.

***The Philadelphia Phillies promoted 2013 first-round pick J.P. Crawford from the Gulf Coast League to Low-A Lakewood in the South Atlantic League yesterday. His pro debut has been excellent thus far: .345/.443/.465 in rookie ball, with 25 walks and 25 strikeouts in 142 at-bats, 12 steals, and strong positive reviews for his defense at shortstop.

A promotion was rumored for days. . .the GCL was not challenging him . . .but it was generally assumed he'd move up to Williamsport in the New York-Penn League. The jump to full-season ball will prove most illuminating. The Lakewood team is mired in last place with a 46-75 record so he's not going to get any post-season exposure here, but the fact that they are moving him that high at all speaks well of the early impression Crawford has made.

Gradewise, I'd rate him a B+ based on his early pro performance, scouting reports, and draft status. The obvious recent comparison would be Addison Russell in the Oakland Athletics system, another high school shortstop jumped aggressively to full-season ball two months after being drafted, although the two are dissimilar as physical specimens.

I had Russell as a B+ entering '13. It is too early to consider where Crawford would slot on a Top 50 list, given that will also depend on how other guys are rated, but he'd definitely be on it, very likely in the Top 30 and probably in the Top 20. (CLARIFICATION: I am referring to a Top 50 hitters-only list, not Top 50 prospects including hitters and pitchers. In my book every year I separate the hitters and pitchers on different lists.)

By the way, that photo isn't from the Lakewood Blue Claws. The photo is Crawford in his high school uniform: he went to Lakewood high school in California.

***Today's Minor League baseball schedule.

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